Tuesday, June 7, 2016


I've been exploring Karen Rohlf's Dressage, Naturally over the past few weeks and some important concepts and ideas have come up.  If you aren't familiar with Dressage, Naturally it is the brainchild of Karen Rohlf, an upper level dressage rider who trained with Anne Gribbons for many years and then did Natural Horsemanship training to a high level with the Parelli's.  Her system of Dressage, Naturally uses the Natural Horsemanship foundation on the ground and under saddle "freestyle" first and then when that is solid, uses classical dressage principles to improve the horse gymnastically.  The idea is to have a much softer, lighter horse than is typically seen in dressage competition today and also to have a HAPPY horse that wants to work for the rider through the use of Natural Horsemanship techniques.

There are many components to the DN system and I will do a full review with video when I get a bit further down the road, (and you can also check out the website at dressagenaturally.com) but I thought I would start with the concept of alignment or straightness, as it is better known in dressage circles, and how this has made a huge difference for me.  Basically, in DN, once you have a foundation that allows you to ride on a loose rein in three gaits, stop and go from light seat aids, and yield the shoulders or hindquarters easily you are ready to ride in connection.  Connection is your body to the horse's body and the reins are in a light contact to give feedback or place the head/neck higher or lower.  With this relaxed horse, that will stop quietly at any time from seat aids only, you start working on alignment/straightness on a big circle.  

The genius of this basic alignment exercise is that you don't just move the shoulder or the hindquarters to get to aligned/straight on the circle, you move past the straight spot to the other crooked spot and release the yield.  The horse will of course, swing back to the starting crooked spot when your aids come off, but he will go through the place of alignment/straightness to get there.  As you keep doing this exercise the horse starts to realize the easy place to be is in the aligned place and he stays there for more and more strides.  You as the rider do not hold him there, he just starts to keep himself there for longer and longer because it is more comfortable and balanced.  Amazingly enough, when he is in that aligned spot he will also want to stretch down and out, leading to better use of his back, a great longitudinal stretch and he will be relaxed.  

Who knew?  I have been doing dressage FOREVER and I never ever knew that the stretch really comes from alignment otherwise known as straightness.  I thought straightness was way up the training scale and wondered why the true stretch was so difficult to get.  This is just one example of how DN takes classical dressage principles and changes the presentation to get to exactly the same spot, a relaxed horse, in balance, with energy and in harmony.  

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it wonderful when a new piece of information helps you so greatly with something? Interesting to read!